Science 328, 339–342 (2010)

Many organic compounds contain atoms arranged in aromatic or 'ring' structures, which often confer stability. Now Masaichi Saito at Saitama University in Japan and his colleagues have slipped lead into a ring of carbon atoms without disrupting its stable structure.

Aromatic compounds are stabilized when the electrons in atomic orbitals are shared across the rings in a particular way to form bonds with unusual properties. Incorporating other atoms into these structures while maintaining these properties has proved difficult.

The researchers made a lead-containing analogue of an aromatic five-membered ring — the cyclopentadienyl anion — and used it to create a dilithioplumbole, another aromatic five-membered ring molecule. They say this could lead to new catalysts and materials.